Simply put: All vitamins are important for athletic performance. Having a vitamin deficiency in any area can lead to a decrease in your body's energy production and performance.
The thing is: You're more likely to be deficient in certain harder-to-get nutrients than others.
For athletes and others who frequently exercise, research indicates there a few vitamins and minerals that are both important and oftentimes overlooked. Three of the most common include:
- Vitamin D
Certain B vitamins and other nutrients also matter for athletic performance, but people are regularly deficient in them. Meanwhile, other vitamins -- like vitamin C, A, and E -- are all very important, but they're also commonly found in foods and less likely to be deficient in your body.
To make sure your body functions at a high level, this article will explore each of these vital -- but often under-consumed -- vitamins in detail.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps with hundreds of important body processes, including those that control how your muscles and nerves work. Some research suggests that up to 75 percent of people don't get enough magnesium, which is reason enough to reconsider what you can do to add more to your diet.
Magnesium is involved in things like protein synthesis, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and glucose and insulin metabolism. It also helps strengthen your bones, heart, and regulate normal blood sugar levels.
When it comes to exercise performance, a review of research found that the need for magnesium increases the more physical activity you perform. That's because it plays a role in ATP production (your main source of energy), as well as muscle recovery and preventing muscle cramps.
Zinc is important for immunity and nervous system development. But, it's the performance benefits that are so often overlooked. Optimal functioning of your metabolism depends on having enough zinc. So does helping your muscles repair after exercise, the production of hormones (such as testosterone), and boosting your immune system.
Data suggests a majority of Americans have less-than-optimal levels of Vitamin D primarily because it’s difficult to get from food (good sources included canned salmon, milk, and sardines).
While sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, the sun is not strong enough from November to March in most places to provide you with sufficient amounts. And even when you are outside, you’re mostly covered with clothing and/or sunscreen, which block the beneficial (and harmful) rays.
Vitamin D researcher Dr. Robert Heaney has stated, “Vitamin D won’t cure anything, but supplementing with it will make everything better.”
Vitamin D helps your body absorb and maintain proper blood levels of calcium. More importantly, healthy levels of Vitamin D are linked to a healthy weight (obese people tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D), fighting against cardiovascular disease, and preventing cognitive decline.
Other High-Performance Vitamins
Those are the primary vitamins and minerals your body needs if you exercise, but there are also several other vitamins you should prioritize, including:
- Vitamin B-6 helps your body produce hemoglobin and several neurotransmitters in the brain, promotes proper nerve function, breaks down proteins, and helps maintain blood glucose levels.
- Vitamin B-12 aids in the formation of red blood cells and helps maintain the nervous system, and aids metabolism.
- Vitamin K is crucial for blood coagulation (clotting).
- Biotin helps break down proteins and carbohydrates and is crucial for hormone and cholesterol production.
- Folate (folic acid) aids the formation of red blood cells and is essential for DNA production.
Related: Should You Take A Multivitamin?